Friday, March 20, 2009

The Gist: Mar. 20

Welcome to The Gist, where I give you articles from the week's religious news that I found interesting and/or important, but couldn't fit into the radio show. Today I have two interesting links for you. Enjoy!

Plan Would Limit Prison Chapel Books:
the gist of the article is that there are people who want to ban religious texts form prisons because they might incite, promote, or otherwise suggest violence or criminal activity. I think they're right that religious book do all three of those things, without a shadow of a doubt. But I don't know if its wise to try and keep them out of the prisons. That might cause more problems than it hopes to solve.

Air Force Looks Into ‘Inspirational’ Video:

the gist of the article is is that a Colonel sent out a link, via e-mail, for an inspirational video with a Christian angle. People complained, saying they were offended, and now the Air Force is looking into whether or not the video was in violation of military neutrality. Based on what the Colonel said in their message, I don't think it was a violation. Participation in viewing the footage was purely anonymous and voluntary and carried no pressure, nor any threat of reprobation. I have no problem with it.

Show From: Mar. 20, 2009

Alright! And now it’s time for…Godless Wisdom! Where every week we bring you the greatest thoughts from the brilliant minds of the world’s best thinkers. Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from the mind of Penn Jillette, the larger, louder half of the magical duo, Penn & Teller. I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word "elephant" includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.”


That’s all for Godless Wisdom. Now, onto the news!

First up, we have a report released on Wednesday that says people who claim greater faith in heaven are the most likely to fight to keep their mortal life. The story can be found all over the internet, and the article, if you want to see the whole thing ("Religious Coping and Use of Intensive Life-Prolonging Care Near Death in Patients With Advanced Cancer"), can be found in the Journal of the American Medical Association. We’ll be reading from the New York Times.

--Terminally ill cancer patients who drew comfort from religion were far more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they died than were less religious patients and far more likely to want doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive, a study has found.

The patients who were devout were three times as likely as less religious ones to be put on a mechanical ventilator to maintain breathing during the last week of life, and they were less likely to do any advance care planning, like signing a do-not-resuscitate order, preparing a living will or creating a health care proxy, the analysis found.

The study is to be published Wednesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
“People think that spiritual patients are more likely to say their lives are in God’s hands — ’Let what happens happen’ — but in fact we know they want more aggressive care,” said Holly G. Prigerson, the study’s senior author and director of the Center for Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care Research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

“To religious people, life is sacred and sanctified,” Dr. Prigerson said, “and there’s a sense they feel it’s their duty and obligation to stay alive as long as possible.”

Aggressive life-prolonging care comes at a cost, however, in terms of both dollars and human suffering. Medicare, the government’s health plan for the elderly, spends about one-third of its budget on people who are in the last year of life, and much of that on patients at the very end of life.

Aggressive end-of-life care can lead to a more painful process of dying, researchers have found, and greater shock and grief for the family members left behind.

The new study used both a questionnaire and interviews to assess the level of reliance on religious faith for comfort among 345 patients with advanced cancer. The patients, most of them belonging to Christian denominations, were followed until they died, about four months on average.

A vast majority of patients, religious or not, did not want heroic measures taken. Still, 11.3 percent of the most religious patients received mechanical ventilation during the last week of life, compared with only 3.6 percent of the least religious.

The most religious patients were also more likely than less religious ones to be resuscitated in the last week of life and to be treated in an intensive-care unit as they died, although those differences may have been due to chance. --

I’m not shocked, not at all. It’s what I’ve been saying all along: most people say that they believe in God and whatnot, but in all reality, when the cards are down, they focus their minds and their fears in the natural world.


Next we have something truly deplorable, coming straight from the Heart of Darkness itself, the Pope condemns condoms, once again. For the complete story, we turn to the New York Times.

--Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against H.I.V., Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

Benedict arrived in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital, on Tuesday afternoon, greeted by a crowd of people waving flags and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage to Africa as pope.
In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his position is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence, not condoms, was the best way to prevent the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.
“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope told reporters aboard the plane heading to Yaoundé. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

The pope said a responsible and moral attitude toward sex would help fight the disease.
The Roman Catholic Church rejects the use of condoms as part of its overall teaching against artificial contraception. Senior Vatican officials have advocated fidelity in marriage and abstinence from premarital sex as crucial weapons in the fight against AIDS.

About 22 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with H.I.V., according to Unaids, a United Nations agency. In 2007, three-quarters of all AIDS deaths worldwide were in the region, as well as two-thirds of all people living with H.I.V.

Rebecca Hodes of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa said that if the pope were serious about preventing H.I.V. infections, then he would focus on promoting wide access to condoms and spreading information on how best to use them.

“Instead, his opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans,” said Ms. Hodes, the campaign’s director of policy, communication and research.--

Disgusting. Type Pope Benedict Condoms into the google news search engine and you will find a slew of articles where countries are outright ignoring the Pope’s words and many groups are actively speaking out against him.

The Vatican stepped in a few days later to “clarify” that the Pope only said that condoms risk making the problem worse. The Catholic News Service came out with this report:

--Regarding the reaction provoked by words of the pope on the problem of AIDS, the director of the Vatican press office, Father Federico Lombardi, clarifies that the Holy Father has reaffirmed the position of the Catholic Church and the essential elements of its commitment in combating the terrible scourge of AIDS: first, with education in personal responsibility in the use of sexuality and with reaffirmation of the essential role of marriage and the family; second, with research and implementation of effective treatment of AIDS and making it available to the greatest number of sick people through many health initiatives and institutions; third, with human and spiritual assistance for those with AIDS as for all the suffering, who have always been in the heart of the church. These are the directions in which the church concentrates its commitment. It does not believe that focusing primarily on a wider distribution of condoms is in reality the best, most far-sighted and effective way to oppose the scourge of AIDS and protect human life.--

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Update to the Brazilian Girl Story

Finally, a powerful public figure has stepped forward to speak out against the absurdity of the Catholic church's statements and decisions in the case of a 9 year old girl who was raped by her step-father.

The Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, spoke out against the church, criticizing them for excommunicating a group of people who were, essentially, responsible for saving the life of a 9 year old girl.

Reason: it's a beautiful thing.

Show From: Mar. 13, 2009

Alright! And now it’s time for…Godless Wisdom! Where every week we bring you the greatest thoughts from the brilliant minds of the world’s best thinkers. Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from the mind of Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief—On raising ethical, caring kids without Religion. “I try to set up an unconditional love of reality. The decision that our existence here is spectacular. It’s the most amazing thing you can dream up to have been unconscious stuff for billions of years. And now, for a brief time, we’re assembled into these sentient beings able to actually look around and understand the universe and ask questions and love and laugh and burp and fart and the whole thing. I mean, this is an amazing moment.”

Now for the news. First, we catch up on a story from last week: the unfortunate circumstances of a 9 year old Brazilian girl who was raped by her step-father and subsequently became pregnant with twins. Under Brazilian law abortion is illegal except in cases where the life of the fetus or mother is in danger. Doctors ascertained that the girl’s body could not physically handle one, let alone two, fetuses and decided that they needed to perform an abortion. The local archdiocese stepped in to condemn the doctors and went so far as to excommunicate everyone involved in the abortion, except the little girl who they said was protected by her status as a minor. Oh, and the step-father who raped her. They didn’t bother to excommunicate him either. But then again, the Catholic Church hasn’t seemed to have much of a problem with child molestation in the past, so why should it change now? Outrage has been boiling in Brazil as the story has received further coverage. And, finally, the Vatican stepped in to make a statement and bestow a token of rational thought on the situa-. Oh. Wait. No. They just decided to back up the Brazilian archdiocese. Where the hell is the common sense? If they didn’t abort the babies the mother and her children would have died. The doctors saved a life. How can no one see this?

Okay, I’ve got some quick news bits here. All coming from this past week’s New York Times. First up: “Somalia Cabinet Votes to Adopt Islamic Law.” The cabinet voted Tuesday to make Islam the basis of Somalia’s legal system. The move, which still must be approved by Parliament, was an attempt to isolate more extreme elements of an Islamic insurgency by agreeing to a demand supported by moderate elements and much of the population.

Next, we have ‘HBO Apologizes for ‘Big Love’ Episode.” --An episode of “Big Love,” the HBO series about a polygamous Mormon family, above, has courted controversy with the Mormon church and prompted an apology from the cable channel before the show has run, The Associated Press reported. The episode, scheduled for Sunday, will show a character undergoing an endowment ceremony, a religious rite the church considers sacred. In a statement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding,” according to The A.P. HBO said that it did not intend to cause offense to the church and apologized but added that the ceremony was an important part of the episode. In a statement the show’s creators, Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer, said they “took great pains to depict the ceremony with the dignity and reverence it is due,” The A.P. reported.-- The part I love is that they’re still going to play the episode, uncensored. Good for them.

From Indonesia we have, “Bali Defies Fatwa on Yoga.” -- A weeklong international festival celebrating the pan-religious practice of yoga here on the island of Bali is wrapping up peacefully despite a recent religious ruling condemning the practice from the top Muslim authority in Indonesia. .

It is the second time in recent months that Bali, a predominantly Hindu island in the world’s most populous Muslim country, has openly opposed rulings by the Ulema Council, the quasi-governmental body that issued the yoga edict.

In October, after the Indonesia Parliament passed broad antipornography legislation, which was first championed by the Ulema Council and included limits on dancing and dress, Balinese erupted in anger, fearing many of their traditional rituals would be considered illegal. Thousands marched through the streets and Bali’s governor, Made Mangku Pastika, declared that he would not enforce the law.

Though about 90 percent of Indonesians are Muslim, the country is made up of hundreds of distinct ethnic and cultural groups. Islam itself comes in many different forms here. The religious and governmental authorities in Jakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia’s most populous island and the country’s center of power, are often accused of being insensitive to these differing cultures.

When the Balinese, along with people in Sulawesi and Papua, protested the pornography bill last year, they held signs calling for increased autonomy from the central government in Jakarta.
The Muslim Council’s yoga ruling came in a package of fatwas issued in January. The council deemed the ancient Indian poses and exercises incorporating Hindu chanting or rituals a sin for Muslims. Similar fatwas have been issued in Egypt and Malaysia. In all three countries, the religious leaders said they were concerned that practicing yoga could cause Muslims to deviate from Islamic teachings.

But a council member who was in charge of investigating yoga said that while yoga could be spiritually hazardous, practicing it purely for health reasons was acceptable. “What could be a problem for Muslims is if they practice yoga as part of a religious ritual, using Hindu mantras or Hindu prayers,” said the member, Sholahudin al-Ayubi, by telephone last week.

Now for some exciting news! Two great reports going around. First, a report from the Christian Science Monitor that predicts evangelical Christianity is on its way out, and the other a recent report that religiosity in America is in decline. First I’d like to read a selection from the Christian Science Monitor, titled, “The Coming Evangelical Collapse.”

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.
Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the "Protestant" 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I'm convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.
The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can't articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to "do good" is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.--

That’s the end of the selection I’m reading you. You can read the rest by finding the link in the show notes at our blog at The piece goes on for a little bit longer, talking about what will be left of Christianity and offers some possible solutions for the problem. Mostly I hope he’s right about Christian evangelicalism falling apart. It’s been long in coming and I believe that the fall of the evangelical movement will lead to a more rapid move towards a secular society across America and the marginalization of Christianity into the mythology books across the world. I mean, it’s virtually impossible to get a decent religion started these days. The best attempt we’ve seen is Scientology, and that’s a bit of a joke, isn’t it? Once Christianity is absorbed into the pages of history it will only be a short time before true religion is something practiced almost exclusively by those with the least and those on the fringe of society. Of course, spiritual beliefs and random superstition will remain, but dogmatic subscription to absurdities? I believe that one day that will be the case. These reports give me hope that it will come sooner than later.

This ties in directly with a report released Monday that finds America is becoming less religious. I’ll be pulling quotes from an article on CNN, a release by Trinity College, and USA Today. For the full articles you can find them linked on the blog at

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found. Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League said he thinks a radical shift towards individualism over the last quarter-century has a lot to do it.
"The three most dreaded words are thou shalt not," he told Lou Dobbs. "Notice they are not atheists -- they are saying I don't want to be told what to do with my life."

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.

The survey also found that "born-again" or "evangelical" Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to "mainline" congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey.

The rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans, said Mark Silk of Trinity College.

"In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way," he said of the link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family.

Silk also said the revelation that some Catholic priests had sexually abused children -- and senior figures in the church hierarchy had helped to hide it -- drove some Catholics away from religion.
And, he said, it is now more socially acceptable than it once was to admit having no religion.

"You're not declaring yourself a total pariah. The culture has changed in a way that makes it easier to say, 'No, I don't have a religion. Even in the past year, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama feel obliged to talk about 'those of no faith,' " he pointed out. Obama mentioned people without faith in his inaugural address in January, making him the first president to do so.

In the survey, one in five Americans said they have no religious identity or did not answer the question, and more than one in four said they do not expect to have a religious funeral.

The rise in what the survey authors call "nones" is the only trend reflected in every single state in the study, Silk said.

So let’s lay the data out. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from
8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million "Nones." Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country.

According to the researchers, people thought that perhaps the year 2000 results were an anomaly, but the evidence confirms it was not. The “nones” are the only group to have grown in
every state in America.

The total number of Christians in America has gone down to 76% from over 86. 90% of this decline comes from non-Catholics. The growth within the number of Christians has come from those identifying as simply Christian, born again/evangelical, or non-denominational. This has been associated with the growth of megachurches.

Other key findings:
• Baptists, who constitute the largest non-Catholic Christian tradition, have increased their numbers by two million since 2001, but continue to decline as a proportion of the population.
• Mormons have increased in numbers enough to hold their own proportionally, at 1.4 percent of the population.
• The Muslim proportion of the population continues to grow, from .3 percent in 1990 to .5 percent in 2001 to .6 percent in 2008.
• The number of adherents of Eastern Religions, which more than doubled in the 1990s, has declined slightly, from just over two million to just under. Asian Americans are substantially more likely to indicate no religious identity than other racial or ethnic groups.
• Those who identify religiously as Jews continue to decline numerically, from 3.1 million in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2001 to 2.7 million in 2008--1.2 percent of the population. Defined to include those who identify as Jews by ethnicity alone, the American Jewish population has remained stable over the past two decades.
• Adherents of New Religious movements, including Wiccans and self-described pagans, have grown faster this decade than in the 1990s.

And here’s something really exciting: Only1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

Just look at those last figures. The population of outright atheist, in effect atheists who are either willing to say they are atheists or people who understand the definition of atheist well enough to know they are one, has doubled! How exciting! The study finds that 12% of Americans are atheists. And irreligion is growing steadily across every state in the Union—from New York to Tennessee to California to Hawaii to Alaska to Alabama to Texas! Vermont and New Hampshire increased 20% in non-religious populants! In fact, So many Americans claim no religion at all that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Show from: March 6th

Thank you, everyone, for being with us here today. Now it's time for Godless Wisdom! Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from my ever questioning head.

People in the fundie world of Christianity give to the Church because supposedly God has said that if you are charitable there will be a reward which will come back to you many times over; however, when a non-religious person gives to those in need, they do it with no real thought of reward, except maybe the good feeling of knowing you've helped out. Now—who has the greater morals?

And that was Godless Wisdom. Next up we have a new Atheists at the Table segment! From the Pulpit! This is the point during the show when everyone gets a chance to go on a rant about something that's bothering them in the world of religion, faith, and superstition. Who's first?

Alright. Today I'd like to get up to the pulpit to preach out against the ubiquity of public prayer. Does it not say in Matthew 6:6, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” It doesn't matter what translation you go to, the words barely change, and the meaning remains strictly the same. There is no metaphor here, no mistaken context, except that perhaps you don't necessarily need to go into a room with a closed door—just do it privately. So what in God's name are all these people doing in church, praying? Praying on the streets? Praying on television? Ministers at the inauguration requesting millions of people to gather in one mighty prayer session! Where the hell is the consistency? Why do Christians keep asking me to pray with them? What is going on here? Is this not one of the most obscene affronts to God's word? Indeed, according to the Christian, this is God's word, since—guess who's talking—Jesus says it himself! Find it in a Red Letter bible and the words will be in red. These are the very words of Christ the Lord telling you to pray in secret! So I'd like it if from this day forth every honest Christian would refrain from asking me to pray with them. Go check it out yourself: Matthew 6:6. First book of the New Testament, sixth chapter. Keep your damn babbling away from me and show some freaking internal consistency and some respect for your own religion.

Now for the news. I'd quickly like to go back to something I've brought up on the past two shows. Measure Initiative 1040. This would be the proposed law in Washington State to make illegal “state use of public money or lands for anything that denies or attempts to refute the existence of a supreme ruler of the universe including, but not limited to, appropriations for displays, scientific endeavors, textbooks, instruction, and research projects.” Now, here comes the amusing part. Under a close rhetorical examination of the proposed measure, the religionists have damned themselves. The single letter/word “a” ruins everything for them. Indeed, churches are state sanctioned and any statement made in a Christian church that asserts Christianity as the one true religion, and therefore Yahweh as the one true god, then they have in turn denied the existence of, say, Vishnu. Vishnu is “a god.” Therefore, the Churches will be breaking the law. That hasn't stopped them before (let's not forget their unabashed support of candidates in the presidential race despite being non-profit organizations) but it does kind of amuse me a bit.

I love rhetoric. What do you guys make of this.

Next, from the Associated Press on Wednesday, March 4th. A nine year old Brazilian girl was raped by her stepfather and ended up pregnant with twins. 80 pounds and 15 weeks pregnant, the girl's body could not handle one, let alone two children. Laws in Brazil allow for abortions in cases where the mother's life is threatened. Doctors decided that there was a serious risk to mother and fetus and decided to perform the abortion. The Catholic Archdiocese stepped in to complain about the abortion, saying that the girl should have simply continued carrying the fetuses to term and then received a cesarean section. A lawyer for the Catholic Church was quoted as saying, “It's the law of God: Do not kill. We consider this murder.” Well, if that's how you want to interpret it then make sure you outlaw meat, vegetables, Raid, and antibacterials, not to mention tumor removal, walking without sweeping in front of you, driving at a speed that could smash insects...shall I continue?

What do you guys think?

Next, from Oklahoma: Richard Dawkins is the target of a legal resolution to have the University of Oklahoma rescind their invitation for Dawkins to come speak at their institution. A piece of the resolution reads as follows:


THAT the Oklahoma House of Representative strongly opposes the invitation to speak on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, whose published statements on the theory of evolution and opinion about those who do not believe in the theory are contrary and offensive to the views and opinions of most citizens of Oklahoma.

THAT the Oklahoma House of Representatives encourages the University of Oklahoma to engage in an open, dignified, and fair discussion of the Darwinian theory of evolution and all other scientific theories which is the approach that a public institution should be engaged in and which represents the desire and interest of the citizens of Oklahoma.”

Brilliant, guys. Whatever happened to “academic freedom?” Yeah, try looking for consistency in religion.

What do you guys think of this, the state trying to govern what a University does with its academics?

Finally we have an article from the Associated Press on March 3rd. East Brunswick, NJ. “High School Coach Marcus Borden used to bow his head and drop to one knee when his football team prayed. But the Supreme Court on Monday ended the practice when it refused to hear his appeal of a school district ban on employees joining a student-led prayer. The decision could add another restriction on prayer in schools, advocates said. The district established the ban in 2005 after parents complained that Borden, a coach at the school since 1983, sometimes led prayers at the Friday afternoon team pasta dinner or in the locker room before games. Borden said he wanted to show respect for the students engaged in prayer by bowing his head silently and dropping to one knee.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Show from: Feb. 27, 2009

Here's the show script, including one article that didn't get discussed:

Thank you, everyone, for being with us here today. Today’s Godless Wisdom comes to you from: Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, #502, a webcomic by Neil Swaab.

WOMAN: I just saw the funniest ad this morning!

TEDDY: Ugh. I hate advertising. Its just lies and manipulation used to create a false need for an unnecessary product….Its kind of like religion when you think about it.

WOMAN: What?

TEDDY: Religion is like advertising for god. Even if god exists, nobody needs him—what with free will and all. And yet, religion wants you to believe in him, spend your money on him, and trick you into thinking you can’t live without him…. It’s a racket.

WOMAN: So with that logic that would make Jesus and the other prophets…

TEDDY: Very popular celebrity mascots. You know, like the Energizer Bunny or Spuds McKenzie. Remember him? He was awesome.

WOMAN: Do you ever worry about going to hell?

TEDDY: Now, that’s an example of negative advertising!

The end!

And now for the news!

Some quick notes:

· From the Norwich Bulliten, dated February 26, The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that governments that receive donations of Ten Commandments displays and other monuments for public parks are not compelled to take everything they are offered.

According to wire reports, justices said officials do not violate free speech rights when they reject requests to display monuments. The decision stems from a case in which a small religious group, the Summum, wanted to force Pleasant Grove City, Utah, to place its granite marker in a park that is home to a Ten Commandments monument.

The Summum argued a city can't allow some private donations of displays in its public park and reject others.

The court distinguished the Summum's case from efforts to prevent people from speaking in public parks, which ordinarily would violate the First Amendment.

Any comments on the article?

· Next, compiled from a variety of sources, including, the News Channel, and the New York Times. Before I continue I would like to note that my views and opinions expressed by myself and the co-hosts are mine and theirs alone and do not reflect the views of WHRW. Continuing now with the story. Governer Mark Sanford, Republican, of South Carolina, has said that he may not accept the stimulus funds allotted to his state, which total about $8 billion dollars. Sanford offers, not money, to the citizens of his state, but prayers. Billions of dollars in benefits, including unemployment benefits are being refused by the Governor, even though thousands in his state are ailing. The following is a reading of a transcript from a television call-in interview with Sanford.

CALLER: I hope you all are not playing politics with this. People in South Carolina are hurting. You know how unemployment rates are high right now and going up higher. We are running out of money in the unemployment bank — we need money for that, the people that need help. And I’m one of them, I can’t get no help. […]

SANFORD: Well I’d say hello to Charleston because its home and I’d say hello to this fellow this morning and say that my prayers are going to be with him and his family because it sounds like he is in an awfully tough spot.

Callous. Cruel. Republican ideological grandstanding. Deplorable. He’s worried about a future debt when it is our country now that needs help. Sanford claims that it is not a good idea to create more debt which “our grandchildren” will have to pay off. Hogwash. With the state of things now, people are hurting now. We need to help them now.

Comments on this news story?

· Further governmental evil in the developing story of the United Nations’ push to criminalize the defamation of religion. I’ll play you this short clip from Lou Dobbs to give you a sense of the story.

Outrageous. How damn weak is the faith of the faithful? How are you guys affected by this news?

· Next, a bit of science! In an article published in this month’s Science magazine, anthropologists released their discovery of hominid footprints from approximately 1.51-1.53 million years ago in Ileret, Kenya. The foot prints, probably from a Homo ergaster, are from a series of three trails containing between 2 and 7 footprints each. The truly extraordinary part of this is that they are decidedly morphologically different from australopithecine footprints found Laetoli, Tanzania which were dated at 3.75 million years old. The difference shows that between 3.75 million BCE and 1.5 million BCE, hominins evolved what the article describes as an “essentially modern human foot function and style of bipedal locomotion.” As P.Z. Meyers of the Pharyngula blog puts it, “Remember, though, these are 1½ million years old, 250 times older than the age of the earth, according to creationists. That's a lot of wonder and history and evidence to throw away, but they do it anyway.” Come on guys, lets pull it together and accept reality for once! You can find the article by searching for the title in Google. The title is “Early Hominin Foot Morphology based on 1.5 Million Year old Footprints From Ileret, Kenya.”


· I’d like to share a posting from the Pharyngula blog that was posted earlier today. It is titled, “Who is buying all that porn?” PZ Meyers writes:

An analysis of the consumption of internet pornography found that there are only small differences between states, but that there are some patterns. The patterns will not surprise anyone.

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. "The differences here are not so stark," Edelman says.

Eight of the top 10 pornography consuming states gave their electoral votes to John McCain in last year's presidential election - Florida and Hawaii were the exceptions. While six out of the lowest 10 favoured Barack Obama.

So Republican states gobbled up more nekkid pitchers than Democratic states… but of course, one could argue that it was just the few Democrats in Utah who were slavering most obsessively over porn, while the Republican Mormons were being upright (no, wait, maybe that's the wrong word…) Montana is a conservative state, too, but maybe the ready availability of all those cows helps slake their forbidden lusts.*

What about those good Christians?

States where a majority of residents agreed with the statement "I have old-fashioned values about family and marriage," bought 3.6 more subscriptions per thousand people than states where a majority disagreed. A similar difference emerged for the statement "AIDS might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behaviour."

Heh. Now we all know what "values" is a code word for.

· Next, a humorous exchange between Richard Dawkins and Ray Comfort. For those of you who don’t know, Richard Dawkins is one of the big-name spokespersons of atheism worldwide, dubbed by some as the “pope of atheism.” He is most famous for his work, “The god Delusion.” Before I tell you who Ray is, I must express that these words are my opinion only. Ray Comfort is an evangelical Biblical Literalist Christian and a professional buffoon. A well known, incredibly obstinate, fatuous, buffoon. I cannot express how silly this little man is. I can only say that for a better view of his inanity I regularly read his blog at to get my daily guffaws in. According to a post at Dawkins’ website, one of Comfort’s representatives came forth to Dawkins offering $10,000 to debate him. Dawkins replied that $10,000 was a miserly sum compared to usual offerings, which, when in front of serious audiences, he usually declines. Dawkins stated that the only sufficient payment would be $100,000 to go directly to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. A beautiful irony in getting Comfort to not only part with an extraordinary amount of money but in doing so to hurt Comfort’s cause and help Dawkins’. Comfort offered $20,000, but Dawkins’ refused again, clarifying that he was not doing it to get rich, but rather to ensure that $100,000 would be unavailable for Comfort to buy “animatronic dinosaurs with saddles, or other similar nonsense” This will definitely be something to watch out for in the coming months. A debate between Dawkins and Comfort would be the hight of true hilarity.

Comments on this potential laugh-fest?

· Next, I’d like to present an op-ed from the February 22 New York Times, by David Blakenhorn and Jonathan Rauch. They offer their article, “A Reconciliation on Gay Marriage.” The article reads as follows:

IN politics, as in marriage, moments come along when sensitive compromise can avert a major conflict down the road. The two of us believe that the issue of same-sex marriage has reached such a point now.

We take very different positions on gay marriage. We have had heated debates on the subject. Nonetheless, we agree that the time is ripe for a deal that could give each side what it most needs in the short run, while moving the debate onto a healthier, calmer track in the years ahead.

It would work like this: Congress would bestow the status of federal civil unions on same-sex marriages and civil unions granted at the state level, thereby conferring upon them most or all of the federal benefits and rights of marriage. But there would be a condition: Washington would recognize only those unions licensed in states with robust religious-conscience exceptions, which provide that religious organizations need not recognize same-sex unions against their will. The federal government would also enact religious-conscience protections of its own. All of these changes would be enacted in the same bill.

Whatever our disagreements on the merits of gay marriage, we agree on two facts. First, most gay and lesbian Americans feel they need and deserve the perquisites and protections that accompany legal marriage. Second, many Americans of faith and many religious organizations have strong objections to same-sex unions. Neither of those realities is likely to change any time soon.

Further sharpening the conflict is the potential interaction of same-sex marriage with antidiscrimination laws. The First Amendment may make it unlikely that a church, say, would ever be coerced by law into performing same-sex wedding rites in its sanctuary. But religious organizations are also involved in many activities outside the sanctuary. What if a church auxiliary or charity is told it must grant spousal benefits to a secretary who marries her same-sex partner or else face legal penalties for discrimination based on sexual orientation or marital status? What if a faith-based nonprofit is told it will lose its tax-exempt status if it refuses to allow a same-sex wedding on its property?

Cases of this sort are already arising in the courts, and religious organizations that oppose same-sex marriage are alarmed. Which brings us to what we think is another important fact: Our national conversation on this issue will be significantly less contentious if religious groups can be confident that they will not be forced to support or facilitate gay marriage.

Gay couples have concerns of their own. Most, of course, want the right to marry, and nothing less. But federal recognition of same-sex marriage — leave aside what you think about the merits — is not likely in the near future. The federal Defense of Marriage Act forbids it. Barack Obama and most other Democratic presidential candidates opposed gay marriage. And most Americans continue to oppose it.

At the same time, federal law links many important perquisites to marital status, including Social Security survivor benefits, tax-free inheritance, spousal immigration rights and protections against mutual incrimination. All of these benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples, even those living in states that permit same-sex marriage or civil unions. But these same benefits could be conferred by federally recognized civil unions.

And while most Americans who favor keeping marriage as it has customarily been would prefer no legal recognition of same-sex unions at either the federal or the state level, we believe that they can live with federal civil unions — provided that no religious groups are forced to accept them as marriages. Many of these people may come to see civil unions as a compassionate compromise. For example, a PBS poll last fall found that 58 percent of white evangelicals under age 30 favor some form of legal same-sex union.

Show from: Feb. 20, 2009

Scroll further down for two articles that didn't make it into the show...

Today we discussed a number of headlines which you will find linked below:

Atheist Group Files Lawsuit Against Prayer at Presidential Inauguration

Visiting Pope, Pelosi Hears a Call to Protect Life

Upstate Man Charged With Beheading His Estranged Wife

For Catholics, a Door to Absolution Is Reopened

We also spent most of the start of the show discussing the inauguration of the President, focusing primarily on Rick Warren's speech. The links to the transcripts of each speech are below:

President Barack Obama

Rick Warren

Joseph E. Lowery

There were two articles that didn't make it into the show, but I thought important and interesting enough to put into my pile of news items.

The first one is "Faith Based Fudging," an op-ed revealing an unfortunate move by the new American president. Apparently, Obama has chosen not only to renege on a campaign promise, but to open an avenue through which the hoards of the Religious Right might trample on our Constitution.

President Obama said, on the campaign trail, that he would continue the faith-based funding put into action by former President Bush, but would put in place stricter safeguards to ensure tax-payer dollars did not go towards the funding of proselytizing.

Even Christians should be outraged by this! Baptists, do you want you money going to fund a Catholic missionary? I think not.

I have not seen nearly enough outcry against this, even as there was none when Bush first put it into action. What's going on, here, folks? 'Cause I haven't a clue.

The second article was an interesting look into a woman's rights
movment in Malaysia. In action for the past 20 years, the movment is bolstered by supporters from 47 countries, hundreds of Muslim women, and the Koran as their guide. The oppression of these women is justified by the Koran and so, in a fight fire with fire sort of mentality, these women aim to find passages in the holy text to prove their equality with men.

I'll say that they're going to have a very tough time. I've read the Koran from cover to cover and there's
nothing useful about equality between the sexes. All the mullahs have to do is pull out 2:282, to show a woman as worth half that of a man, or 4:98, to show a woman equal to a feeble man or a child, or 7:24, to show that man and woman are enemies.

The religion, Islam, has doomed these women as far as I can see. They will never be treated as women are in more progressive societies. For even in America, when pride and honor and religion are more powerful than the threat of the law, the women will be beaten or killed by husbands and fathers and brothers and uncles who's greatest devotion is to God and not to family or state.